When I was a little girl, there was no such thing as a kids menu. I remember my mum and dad taking us all out to eat and getting to try everything from escargots (yup, I ate snails aged 6) to steak tartare. And my favourite? Going out for a Chinese and attempting to eat with chopsticks (translation: stabbing my sweet & sour chicken with them – but being totally delighted when I managed to get a piece of food).
Children love a dining experience just as much as the food itself. And living in such an amazingly multi-cultural city as Dubai means that we can teach them about what a diverse place the world is through different restaurants, cuisines and styles of eating. We recently went for one of the most successful family meals ever – at Atisuto Japanese restaurant in the Galleria Mall (you know, the no tantrum and food actually eaten kind). The minis surprised us with how quickly they championed the chopsticks – and loved the flavours. Asian food is a winner mamas, here are a few of our favourite places for chopstick dining for the whole fam.
With the kids fighting the whole way to the mall I thought this would be a quick in and out job – where husband and I attempt to eat while trying to keep some kind of order and the kids say everything’s ‘yukky’ because they’re in that kind of mood. Within 5 minutes of sitting down, my middle child had poured soya sauce all over the table and put an entire blob of wasabi into his mouth, while the eldest was protesting loudly that he didn’t want to eat with ‘tweezers.’ Happily, peace was quickly restored and there were smiles all round – largely due to our super friendly waitress who suggested some fun fruity mocktails and brought the littles coloured little chopstick gadgets in the shape of fish, which kept them entertained while we ordered (and convinced my eldest that actually the ‘tweezer’s were the coolest thing ever).
Atisuto offers the usual Japanese fare but does it really really well – I mean on a par with the high-end Japanese restaurants in the city – impressive given that it is essentially a little café style set up. It’s very pretty with quirky and fun Japanese décor and a sushi bar at which the kids sat and watched the fish being prepared. From edamame and gyoza dumplings to lava grilled fish and meat, tempura, noodles and of course a sushi and sashimi selection, there are options galore – including a kids menu with a simple choice of chicken or salmon teriyaki.
The food was amazing. Seriously amazing. Beautifully presented, fresh, totally yummy – the children went wild for their meals, polishing off the salmon and the very creative potato salad, egg fried rice and deep fried chicken sides. Husband and I had completely over-ordered (as usual), but each dish was so good that it was impossible to stop eating so we ploughed through them all and then helped the minis with their Mochi ice cream with miso caramel sauce (OMG, SO GOOD!).
Mamas if you’re fans of Japanese food then this is an absolute must. The restaurant is so cute, the staff are mega friendly, it was a winner on all counts – happy parents and happy kids. Build up an appetite with a climbing session at Adventure HQ just next door and finish up here. Perfect.
The kids menu at Atisuto costs AED 59. Pssst….they’re now also open for brekkie mamas (Japanese omelet anyone?!)
Atisuto, Galleria Mall, Dubai
(+971) (0)4 343 6303, www.atisuto.ae
Five More Family Friendly Spots For Fun With Chopsticks:
East Asian Kitchen JLT
If you’re looking for somewhere to take the kids for a runaround then the park in JLT is amazing (we only just recently discovered it) – combine with dinner at East Kitchen and you’ve got your afternoon and evening sorted. A selection of fun fusion Asian fare, from sushi to sweet & sour – for AED 20 the little ones can enjoy a ‘Junior Sushi Box’ of maki rolls with avocado, chicken, shrimp and crabstick – or, for the veggie-dodgers for whom anything wrapped in seaweed is a step too far, noodles and other kiddie friendly options.
East Asian Kitchen JLT, JLT (Cluster U), Dubai
(+971) (0)4 422 6929, www.eastkitchen.com
Sumo Sushi & Bento
Fast-food Japanese that’s consistently good and a fave with the kids who love the shrimp tempura and teriyaki chicken kiddie options (might also be something to do with the free sippy cups they get each time). Mini diners can join the Kenji’s Kid Club which entitles them to all sorts of special offers and promotions from a free birthday meal to free meals on Tuesdays (kids 12 and under get a free kids meal with each adult entrée – which means that mama just has to eat dinner out every Tuesday – what a shame).
Our fave is the Town Centre Mall Jumeirah location – but there are lots more including a new Motor City branch if you’re looking for a sushi fix around that part of town.
A casual dining chain that doesn’t scrimp on quality – every single ingredient at Sushi Counter is picked by an Executive Chef who won’t go for anything but the best (and it shows). Take the kids to the Sheikh Zayed Road outlet (just next to the Crowne Plaza) where they can watch the cars whizz by out of the windows and nibble on beautiful rolls (not all with seaweed if they’re not keen on green stuff) or slurp delicious chicken noodle miso soup followed by fabby fresh fruit and a macaroon or two. We also sometimes get sushi in their Mercato Mall branch and take it with us to the movies – heaven!
For slurpy fun and a good ‘fast food’ option you can’t beat wagamamas – the kids menu offers mini-sized versions of their katsu, ramen and yaki soba dishes plus easy to use chopsticks, high-chairs, colouring-in and all that jazz.
Zuma Friday Brunch
Yes it’s true, the brunch at Zuma is totally family friendly – with an all new menu, live cooking stations and the most incredible dessert platter that’s worthy of a visit alone PLUS a supervised play area for the kids to hang out in while you finish off your sake.
AED395 including soft drinks and Zuma cleansers – or AED 595 including champagne, sake and house drinks. AED 225 for kids aged 4-12, kids under 3 eat free (one child per paying adult, not inclusive of main course), 12noon-4pm every Friday until 12th June
Zuma, Gate Village 06, DIFC, Dubai
(+971) (0)4 425 5660, www.zumarestaurant.com